23 May, 2008

Consumptive Diaries Part 3: Buggering Bureaucracy

Anyone who has lived in Japan for more than 5 minutes, knows about the joys of red tape here. On the whole, life here is pretty normal, but once you start interfering with the cogs of bureaucracy, things get really REALLY frustrating.
For those of you who don't know (probably most of you), there is a TB Control Law in Japan. So, not only are we dealing with K's hospitalisation and my potential infection, I'm also dealing with the wheels of bureaucracy.
I was quite content to let these wheels turn at their own pace & get tested when I was told, but due to peer pressure at work (I will not go into it here, but it's really adding to my stress & feeling of leper-ness), and I have to push the bureaucratic cogs.

First of all, let me explain the standard process:

  1. Patient with active TB (The German) is admitted to hospital
  2. Hospital notifies K's local public health centre (in this case, Naka-ku, Yokohama)
  3. A representative from the public health centre goes to visit K and interviews him about his close contacts
  4. Health centre dude (or dudette) will contact potential sick people directly (if in the same ward) or the local public health centre of the potential bio-hazard (if in a different ward)
  5. Potential bio-hazards will be interviewed and if necessary be given a free pass to go to hospital to get tested.
  6. Potential bio-hazard goes to hospital & gets tested
  7. Gets results and is either very happy or embarks on a 6-month odyssey of tee-totalism, hospital visits and ostracism.

Steps 1~5 are supposed to take 7 to 10 days. However, due to the aforementioned peer pressure, I started trying on the 4th day. Great idea.

First of all, I called my local health centre (Nakahara-ku, Kawasaki) to see if I could get tested. The lady there was quite nice; and this is what she told me:

· There is free testing every Thursday (EXCEPT next Thursday!)

· I can only have free testing if I'm judged a potential bio-hazard

· To be judged a potential bio-hazard, Nakahara-ku needs to hear from Naka-ku.

But this lady was helpful enough to call Naka-ku to find out what was going on. So far no-one from Naka-ku has visited the German, nor has he been notified that someone will visit him.

Anyway, turns out that Naka-ku HAVE been notified. So, the Nakahara-ku lady said she could do the screening process with me over the phone. Basically, this consisted of a few questions about whether I have any symptoms and how close consumptive boy and me are. And she said I am not a risk. I ALREADY KNOW THIS. I AM NOT A DANGER. I AM NOT A BIO-HAZARD. But, I explained about the whole peer-pressure thing and how people around me are stressing out. And she said she would put the cogs of bureaucracy in motion and send me my free test pass. She also found a hospital near my station that does TB testing & told me to call to make an appointment.

Thank you, Nakahara-lady. You were calm & nice & accepted my foreignness without freaking out.

But nasty hospital bitch. I HATE YOU.

And why? So, I called the damn hospital to make an appointment.

Here's a rough translation of what happened:

Me: I'd like to have a TB test please

Hospital Bitch: Why?

Me: My boyfriend's been admitted to hospital with TB

HB: So, why don't you get tested at the hospital where he is?

Me: Because it's far away – in Shinjuku-ku

HB: So, why don't you get tested there?

Me: Because I live in Nakahara-ku, and your hospital is the nearest for me

HB: Did you call any other hospitals?

Me: No. This was the only number I have.

HB: Why?

Me: Why what?

HB: Why don't you have any other numbers?

Me: Because this is the only number that the Health Centre gave me

HB: Why did they give you this number?

Me: Because you're nearest to my home.

HB: Hmmm. Do you have a letter from the Health Centre?

Me: Not yet, but they are sending me one.

HB: Well, when it arrives come to here with it & make an appointment

Me: I can't make an appointment now?

HB: No. you need to bring the letter.

Me: So, when I get the letter I come to the hospital?

HB: Yes. Goodbye.

F.U.C.K.I.N.G H.E.L.L.

And just for the record: I AM NOT A BIO-HAZARD


Sigsy said...

Hi, Kei's Dad had TB earlier this year and he was in hosptial in Kobe for a couple of months. I knew he was in hospital for a long stretch and it was only after we had been up and visited him that we looked in the dictionary and his sister said 'tuberculosis'. I was so shocked! But it didn't bother me at all. We went and got him and even though he wasn't supposed to, we broke out and went to a nice little soba restaurant, which is something he apparently did quite often.
It must be a bloody nightmare for you though. If I see you, I will not pull away, I will snog you.
Hang in there sweety.

j-ster said...

Yes, i would like to give you a big, long snog right now too, except that you are a girl and i am a girl, and i dunno about you but i am really not that keen on girls, I suspect that you arent either.

Sometimes I just want to reach down thru the phone and grab these so-called people by the neck and shake them hard. I was to say "Hey, stop for a moment. Forget about your job and the correct way of doing things. Imagine you had this and this and then also this going on in your life? How would you react? Do you think that there is any possibility that you might also want to do what im trying to do right now? Ok, so now tell me what the obstacles are on your side, that i might be able to understand a bit better. Treat me like a human, not a step in the process."

One of the ladies that volunteers full-time at my organisation is in intense pain all the time. her doctor has decided she needs to go to the pain clinic. The receptionist at the pain clinic hardly heard her, she just registered her and then told her there would be a year long wait to see a doctor. The volunteer lady was quite shocked and dismayed to hear this, as you can imagine, and her first reaction was"But I'm in unbearable pain!!!" The receptionist replied "Well so are a lot of other people" and just hung up on her!!! Im sure the receptionist has to deal with that reaction quite a lot, but surely she could come up with a better way than that?!?

Some people just have no empathy.